Dr Who

Sep. 10th, 2012 11:56 pm
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Who cares about dinosaurs on a spaceship when I can have Arthur Weasley and Argus Filch on a spaceship? :)
chthonya: Eagle owl eye icon (Default)
Another quiet afternoon in the village library.

Quiet, that is, until the local brass band sits down on the village green outside to rehearse for a competition tomorrow.

How more stereotypically Yorkshire can you get? :)

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Fifteen years ago, when I realised that my round of evening classes, socialising and committee meetings gave me one night at home each fortnight, I decided to commit to staying in three evenings a week. Lately I'm thinking I should reverse that and commit to going out twice a week. I love evenings in: the promise of kicking back to watch a DVD or indulge in whatever creative pursuit I want (though all too often I find myself wandering round the net for longer than planned). But it doesn't help the depression to be too solitary, especially on office days when I've spent the day staring at a computer trying to work past crushing boredom.

Tonight was a good night: a friend of mine has impromptu games nights every week or so, and after several months of not being able to make it for one reason or another I finally got back tonight. An interesting game of Santiago and a fun game of Infiltration ensued, both of which were new to me and both of which I won, rather to my surprise. But, nice though it is, winning is hardly the point: it's just fun to spend an evening in a little roleplaying, a little mental exercise and a lot of friendly backstabbing. :)
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I thought I was being clever.

A couple of months before heading out to the States I applied for a shiny new credit card that doesn't charge foreign transaction fees. The interest-free period on my first bill - covering the £*cough* I spent in the US - came to an end today. The interest rate on this card is a wee bit higher than that on my normal credit card, so I thought I'd transfer the balance over and save myself a few quid in interest. According to my usual bank it takes about 3 days so I put the request in a week ago Friday to be on the safe side.

So I was horrified to log in to both accounts today and discover that the payment hadn't been initiated (yes, I should have checked before, but I was away last weekend and I've never had a problem with payments before). Why? Because they had to check whether I wanted the promotional balance transfer rate (for a fee). A rate that they hadn't mentioned elsewhere on the website. To say I was pissed off both at them and at myself was an understatement.

In the end, my bank said there was nothing they could do to make the payment quickly. The credit card issuer only accepted phone payments from bank accounts they operate, but they very kindly agreed to refund the interest if I get charged, because I had attempted to pay. I'd not heard great things about Halifax, so I was pleasantly surprised by that.

I don't want to know how much I spent calling their horrid 0845 numbers sorting all that out!
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[livejournal.com profile] lazy_neutrino and I will again be running the [livejournal.com profile] hp_holidaygen Harry Potter Holiday Genfic exchange this year. Sign-ups are now open and will close on September 16.

The sign-up post is here.

Please spread the word!
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I've been enjoying Amanda Vickery's series on masculine archetypes. So far she's examined, so to speak, the Knight, the Gentleman and the Lover, with the Sailor, Explorer and Suit still to come. Amid tidbits such as 16th century self-help books for men, it's an interesting overview of the changing view of the sexes - for example how the idea of women as unbridled temptresses gave way to the idea that it is male lust that's insatiable and that seduction is the man's role.

The programme goes at at 9am and 9:30pm on Mondays, and each episode is available online for a week. It should be accessible from outside the UK, though obviously I can't test that.

There's a preview/overview of the whole series here, and a related article on the subject of The Gentleman here.

I'm heading south to visit my parents tomorrow after work. I hope to check in occasionally but probably won't be about here much until after I get back home on Tuesday night.
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I often get rather frustrated at how powers that be at my library seem to lack vision, so I was pleasantly surprised to find an announcement on ebook lending on the website. We aren't doing it [yet] and they explained why, and also helpfully linked to various sources of free e-books, some of which I knew and some I didn't.

One I hadn't heard of is Girlebooks, which as the name suggests specialises in ebooks by women. A lot of their books come from Project Gutenberg, but properly formatted into various ebook formats. Not all are free, but plenty are - worth a look whether you want an e-version of Austin or to discover a 'new' writer.
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My ex-housemate made me a belated birthday cake last week:

And yes, it tastes as pink as it looks.

Disclaimer: I, of course, make no claim to the title she awarded me - for most people I know offline, knowing Lucius' father's name or flying across the world to go to a Harry Potter convention is so beyond their ken that they think it's exceptional. I'm sure the same goes for most of you.

Now, if she'd put The World's Biggest Lucius Malfoy Fan, I might have been in the running, but most Muggles back away in alarm if I even suggest such a concept. (Not that I often do - it's way too personal to discuss with non-likeminded folk.)


Aug. 14th, 2012 05:19 pm
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Well, colour me surprised. Alohomora 2013 in London has become LeakyCon London. Maybe it will turn out to be the biggest ever HP event in the UK after all.

Dates are given as 8-11 August. Theoretically I can go, but as it is I'll need a lot of time off April/May/July so taking a long weekend then might be pushing it - even if I can find the cash after Misti-Con, a family reunion in Canada and maybe starting a(nother) postgrad degree.

Whether I will go depends a lot on the program and whether anyone else I know is going. UK fandom has always felt more homegrown, and I found Ascendio rather large, and comments there let me to think that LeakyCons tend to appeal to a different crowd, as well as amplifying the disadvantages of size. But perhaps it would be different in London.

So I am more curious than excited ('twould be hard for anything to excite compared to Misti-Con). Good to hear it's defnitely happening, though.

Have any of you been to a US LeakyCon?
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I spent the weekend on retreat - sinking into the beauty of silence and the Dales landscape.

It was a blessed relief to set off from home on Friday with just a staff and a small rucksack - no computer, no book except for the one I took to take notes, and when I arrived no phone reception to interfere with God-reception. By Saturday night I was desperate for something to read. It was probably good that I couldn't indulge in that escapism at the time, though diving into [livejournal.com profile] logospilgrim's book would have been appropriate and since my return I have been drinking from that well. Something that was said on the retreat opened my eyes to seeing my relationship with Lucius in spiritual rather than just psychological terms; when I've had more time to reflect on this, it is something I want to explore further with the person who gave the retreat, as in the last ten years Lucius has been a part of my life that I've never felt able to discuss with any spiritual teacher.

I missed the retreat last year due to family commitments, and my daily practice had long gone by the wayside. The weekend reconnected me and I pray that this time I'll be able to keep my feet on the road. I spend a lot of time in a vague sense of feeling I don't have enough time (even though by virtue of my unattached state and part time work I have more than most) and it is precisely then that meditation seems so difficult but is so vitally necessary.

Life is of necessity simpler at the moment anyhow, as I am paring my finances to pay off the Ascendio trip (and once that is done, to pay for various things next year). I'd forgotten how much freedom there can be in restriction - an unlooked for benefit!

The place we stayed is a 16-17 century farmhouse, which was adapted in the Arts and Crafts style into a home in the 1920s by a gentleman who left it as a retreat centre. It felt older than it is, rooted in the land and the gardens - which were open to the public, some of whom were undoubtedly a little baffled by our walking meditations!

Below the cut are some photos - may they bring you some of the peace that being there brought me.

See more )

Black Swan

Aug. 5th, 2012 09:19 pm
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I came home from work yesterday to find my housemate watching Black Swan on DVD. I missed it at the cinema so I appreciated the opportunity to see it.

I was left wondering what the point was - the psychology struck me as rather overwrought, and I'm not sure what the film was getting at. That someone who is manipulated by both authority figures in her life may crack up under pressure is hardly the most earth-shattering insight, and to suggest that expressing both eroticism and innocence will drive a woman mad is distasteful to say the least.


Jul. 31st, 2012 10:43 am
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MISTI-Con now has an LJ presence: [livejournal.com profile] misti_con_2013

Those of you who were at DiaCon Alley may remember a fair amount of talk about the joys of Aeternitas, which I'd not been aware of prior to that. Well, MISTI-Con is run by the same folks as did Aeternitas, at the same place, and looks like having a focus on the creative side of fandom, with exclusive use of the venue and hence some pretty awesome decor. And a pool party. (I can't imagine how that plays out in HP-land!)

The prices are a heck of a lot more reasonable than the big US conventions, plus, Boston in May is about £300 cheaper airfare than Orlando in July.

So, this probably makes me slightly insane, but if I can possibly go, I will. Could anyone else from this side of the pond be tempted?

For those of you waiting, am still working on Halloween comm. More news soon.
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So, I'm doing what I never thought I'd do, and watching Olympics on TV - dressage, to be precise, though I'm realising I know too little about it to really appreciate what I'm watching. Do any of you equestrian fans out there know of a good link that explains how the competition works?

I'm enjoying seeing how the country colours are represented on what the riders are wearing - very subtle and smart.

Seems a lot LOT rainier in London than up here at the moment.

We hear a lot about potential medal winners in the media. I wonder what it's like for those competing who don't have a chance of getting a medal?
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Following up yesterday's post, the BBC website has posted some impressions of those who participated in the ceremony and media reactions from UK and around the world. Unsurprisingly, there's hating from at least one Tory: The most leftie opening ceremony I have ever seen - more than Beijing, the capital of a communist state! Welfare tribute next? Welfare tribute? Yeah, why the hell not celebrate our willingness to help struggling people stay on their feet?

Thanks to [livejournal.com profile] inbetween_girl for pointing to this tweet. :)

And thanks to [livejournal.com profile] inamac for her reminder that the summer Olympics includes equestrian events. I'll try to catch some of those.


Jul. 27th, 2012 08:55 pm
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Sitting on the sofa with my housemate, waiting for the Opening Ceremony to start - pretty much the only event I'm interested in (I find winter olympics much more watchable).

Until proved otherwise, I still have faith in Danny Boyle's ability to spend £27M to good effect, but the set is giving us a good laugh - a cross between Lord of the Rings and the scarecrows from Dr Who. And the (now redundant) fake clouds are smaller than I expected.

I feel kind of neutral about the Games themselves, but I am getting a little tired of all the adulation of London. It's not as if our media isn't London-centric to start with.

For the cynics, this may make you giggle.

ETA What? They have eleven-and-a-half in the countdown but not 9 3/4?

ETA 2 Blimey, it really is The Hobbit! But good on them for using 'Jerusalem' and 'Flower of Scotland'

ETA 3 Ah, Shakespeare. Feel unexpectedly emotional at Kenneth Branagh's speech - Trainspotting this isn't.

ETA 4 As expected: the scouring of the Shire.

ETA 5 Okay, forging the Rings was pretty awesome - spectacular molten steel effect. Quite a truncated view of British history though - from what was being said I thought it would have flowed from more ancient streams. But respect to Danny Boyle for showing it from the PoV of the working class.

ETA 6 Bit confused about the film bits - what's happening in the stadium now? But ROFL at James Bond's appearance.
ROFL even more at the parachutes!

ETA 7 Pyjamas?

ETA 8 Ah, that's why. Didn't dare hope for Peter Pan!
Can't help wondering what Mitt foot-in-mouth Romney makes of the homage to the NHS.

GOSH - no, it's not a celebration of online dating.

I'd have loved to see the intial stages of this.
"You're going to be in the Olympic Opening ceremony."
"Cool, what do I have to do?"
"Bounce on your bed."

I know they always have some odd demonstration sports, but bed-bouncing isn't one I'd have expected. Maybe they can include pillow fighting too?

YAY - JKR! *hearts*

ETA 9 OMG - they weren't kidding about Voldemort vs Mary Poppins! I have no words for my love for this. :)))

And so on... )
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This was my exhibition piece for Ascendio, which I submitted to the auction and [livejournal.com profile] vampireanneke bought. I wanted to reflect the Malfoys' affection for each other alongside their ruthlessness in defending their interests - hence the snake border guarding Lucius' back!

Detail pictures under the cut )


Jul. 17th, 2012 06:54 am
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So, I was describing the bittersweet 'is this it?' feel of Diacon Alley to someone at Ascendio, and she told me about Alohomora 2013.

Does anyone out there know anything about this, or the people behind it?

If it happens and I can go, I will. But I'm a wee bit disappointed they're holding it in London. There are other, cheaper, nicer places, and Sectus was in London, and 19 years later, if it happens (2016?), will have to at least start in London. And 'bigger' isn't necessarily better. I'm not sure in any case how it will be the biggest European convention ever, when Sectus happened when the entire fandom was at fever pitch, and was boosted by people wanting a damn good release party? I suppose they might do it if they manage to get movie cast members along, which is more feasible these days seemingly.

I await further information with interest.


Jul. 16th, 2012 05:29 am
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F**k, con come-down is hard when you're alone and 4000 miles away from home.

I'm still not sure what to make of my experience at Ascendio. At the moment I feel as if it whizzed past and I missed it - there were so many things going on that it was barely possible for one person to scratch the surface. And, too, my contributions fell a bit flat - I badly misjudged my location at the craft faire, so many people didn't know I was there and I had quite a bit of glass left over (though I did just about make more than I'd spent on materials plus table fee, and as an upside I have pieces ready for when I open my Etsy shop). Then only 3 people came to my fanfic reading (for some reason the fanfic readings weren't shown on the programming grid, so to be honest I was glad to have more than none!) and none of them seemed to like it much. And my auction piece went for only $70 - half of what my piece for Diacon Alley raised last year. But it did go to a good home. :)

I was surprised at how few people there were from other countries. I'd have thought that, what with HPEF conventions getting so much publicity, more people would be travelling to them from all over the world, but the only other British people I met were Chris Rankin and Afshan Azad (the latter of whom I didn't recognise when she came to my craft stall). There were Australians and New Zealanders, but not more than at UK events, and I only heard of one other European. I wonder if US conventions were more international while canon was still 'live', or if the large ticket prices relative to UK events make the ticket+air fare barrier higher for people coming this way than the other.

The rhythm was a lot different, too - in most events I have been to, (almost) everyone attends the opening and the closing and the auction - it's part of the communal experience. Here there was little communal experience apart from the shared venue, but instead a large menu of choices. This made bumping into people at events often enough to get to know them less likely.

Fundamentally, though, I realise that HP cons are about the community. It was great to spend time with [livejournal.com profile] _lady_narcissa_ and to meet [livejournal.com profile] bunney and to make friends with [livejournal.com profile] superdork37 and to meet many others, but at times I felt very alone, without the people with whom I've shared experiences of other gatherings. I feel alone at UK conventions too - it says more about me than the set-up - but I felt I was looking in at a group of people with a shared history and culture around HPEF conventions. Had I made it in 2003 as I'd hoped, perhaps I'd have been part of that (or perhaps it's illusory), but at least at the UK events there are people who know me, and who have known me over years, and I don't feel quite so invisible.

In brief then, and perhaps I'll feel differently when I've slept on it - it was a well-run event, with loads of interesting things happening, but I feel I missed loads of what I wanted to see, and for me it was not conducive to making social connections - there are loads of people who I exchanged a few words with who I'd have liked to get to know better but simply didn't see again, or saw surrounded by their friends and I felt a bit intimidated to approach them. And in retrospect I missed all my friends from UK fandom, and the way that attending conventions builds on the memories we share of previous events.

Am I glad I went? Yes - I'd have regretted it forever if I hadn't. Will I go to a US event again? Not sure - earlier today I'd have said no (not because it wasn't a good event but because it wasn't so mind-bogglingly amazing that I'd be willing to bear the huge cost soon again), but if the fandom moves towards more intimate events that might suit me better.

All that said, the Night of a Thousand Wizards WAS mind-bogglingly amazing. I don't think I ever want to go to the Wizarding World of Harry Potter again, because nothing can match a night out in a Hogsmeade filled with wizards, with time and space to explore Hogwarts and take all the pictures we wanted with no-one getting in the way, and being able to go an all the rides without waiting (I'm not a huge ride fan, but I rode 'Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey' three times - and got snowed on in the DADA classroom!) and to poke around the shops and take in all the amazing detailing of the place (including an all too real torrential downpour as we entered - 20C lower and it could have been Scotland!)

And best of all are the memories of sharing that night with friends old and new. :) Socks, anyone?
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My participation in fandom over the last couple of years has been sporadic at best, so I'd missed the advent of the harry potter companion, a creation of John Kearns, one of the Lexicon's ex editors. The upside of this is that I've found it when his work on the 7 main books + Fantastic Beasts is complete, so each chapter has a plot summary, some thought-provoking questions and lots and lots of fanart. Some of the art I'd seen before, most I hadn't, all is good or stunningly good.

John's essays are worth a read too - I particularly liked his analysis of the sleeping arrangements at the Burrow, pointing out that younger children have progressively higher rooms, though Molly and Arthur sleep near the top of the house. Does that mean that the rooms in between were added with each addition to the family? No wonder the house is wonky!

His analysis of the differences between George and Fred is very useful too.

Interspersed with the analysis are some nostalgic moments as John recalls speculation and surprise at the time the books came out, including one I was oblivious to at the time:

For many people (including yours truly), this chapter is the only portion of the Harry Potter novels that we have ever heard read by J.K. Rowling herself. The reason is that the night Deathly Hallows was released, as the clock struck midnight in Edinburgh, Rowling read this chapter to an audience of children – and was broadcast live all over the world via her publisher’s website. For me, six hours behind her time in Chicago, it meant a very long break between hearing the first chapter and finally getting to read the rest for myself, which was awfully tantalizing (and, if I remember correctly, quite possibly the least productive six hours of my life). But it was a great way for Rowling to kick off the final Harry Potter midnight release, and it will be an event I’ll always remember fondly.

Leading up to DH, my entire focus was on preparing for Sectus, so I didn't pay much attention to what JKR was up to and I'd have probably missed the significance of the webcast if I had. I've always been lucky to be in the earliest timezone when the books were released so queueing to get my mitts on the whole book would always take precedent over listening to even JKR read just one chapter, but had I been 6 hours behind I'd have probably been part of that global audience too. It reminds me of the HBP release when the first chapter was widely circulating but people weren't sure whether it was real. I stopped long enough between bookshop and bed to say that yes, indeed it was, before diving in.

And Daphne Greengrass? John made this observation:

Pansy Parkinson goes out of her way to make the lives of the Gryffindors miserable, and it’s rare that Hermione mentions her without describing her as a “cow.” And yet, Dumbledore apparently made her a prefect this year. It took me by surprise when I first read it, but then I started thinking about his other options in Slytherin. Millicent Bulstrode? Ugh. Daphne Greengrass? We don’t know anything about her (or any other girls in the class), but let’s just say that having Pansy chosen as prefect over you isn’t exactly a stellar recommendation.

I think all we know about Daphne is that she doesn't have a named Death Eater relative, she doesn't torment Harry or his friends and her sister married Draco. I've always assumed that she was an okay human being, and certainly most of the little fanon I've read on Draco and Astoria paint her as a progressive influence, though I don't think there is anything in canon to support that. So now I'm wondering whether Daphne was actually 'worse' than Pansy, or just less confident so Dumbledore didn't think her up to keeping the more belligerent Slytherins in line, or if Pansy wasn't necessarily the best but Dumbledore thought that being prefect might be good for her?
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I never got round to posting pictures of this last year, so here goes now.

This is a panel I made for the charity auction at Diacon Alley. I can't remember how much it went for in the end but it was between £90 and £100, which went to Amnesty International.

Not the best angle here, but this picture shows the solder lines and some of the glass texture. The blocks around the edge are mirror, which I chose because I felt a grey or brown archway would have been a bit dull.

And here's the same panel held to the light - the clouds in Snape's robe are actual clouds seen through the glass, not glass texture. I really enjoyed doing the little bottles, but boy was that part fiddly!

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